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Starfinder

 
Star Keeper by Patricia Potter
(Bantam, $5.99, PG-13) ISBN 0-553-57881-2
****
The sole advantage of reading a badly done romance (about which more later) is that you enjoy a well done story all the more. I am sure I would have enjoyed Patricia Potter’s new Americana romance in any event, but I was so happy to be reading a good book, that I devoured Star Keeper with relish.

This is the third book in Potter’s trilogy about the Sutherland family, once of Scotland but now of America. The hero, John Patrick, visited Britain after he completed his legal studies in the hopes of restoring the lands and title his father lost at Culloden. Instead, he is drugged and impressed into the British navy.

Chapter 1 starts eight years later, in 1777. Annette Carey and her father Hugh live outside of Philadelphia. Hugh has refused to sign the oath of loyalty to the new American republic. As a result, a mob attacks and burns the Carey home and tars and feathers Hugh. Annette is forced to watch this horror, helpless to halt the atrocity.

Six months later, the privateer Star Finder is trapped by British ships after a daring raid up the Delaware. The captain, our John Patrick Sutherland, buys time so that his crew can escape and then, gravely wounded, is himself rescued by his first mate, Ivy. The two make it to shore but John Patrick needs medical attention. Reluctantly, he sends Ivy into Philadelphia where his half-brother, Noel Marsh is a doctor. John Patrick is reluctant because Noel is a Tory and a confidant of the British commander in the city. The Sutherland family is distressed at Noel’s politics.

Noel immediately comes to John Patrick’s assistance, but he knows the search for the notorious “Star Finder” will be intense and his brother needs good nursing. So he takes John Patrick to the hospital for British officers that Annette has established in her aunt’s house in Philadelphia.

Annette feels an immediate attraction for the handsome “Scots” lieutenant while John Patrick is much taken by his lovely nurse. But talk about conflict! Here we have a heroine who has every reason to hate the American patriots who so mistreated her beloved father that he has retreated into a world of silence. And we have a hero who has every reason to hate the British who treated him so vilely, as the scars on his back attest.

Star Keeper should appeal to readers who like action-packed stories. There are daring prison rescues, tense encounters with the enemy, and all sorts of derring-do. But there is primarily a tender romance between two people who face seemingly insurmountable barriers to their happy ending.

Annette is appalled when she discovers her patient’s true identity. How can she ever trust a man who has so deceived her? And how can she give her heart to a man who supports a cause she has good reason to despise? Yet, how can she ignore the new worlds of adventure and feeling that John Patrick opens up to her?

John Patrick knows he has grievously hurt the woman he has come to love. But he knows he needs Annette. His years before the mast and his subsequent enforced career as a pirate had almost destroyed his humanity. Now, he once again feels stirrings of warmth and love. But can she forgive him for both his politics and his acts borne of necessity?

Potter’s secondary characters are as richly drawn as her hero and heroine. Noel Marsh is a man whose actions have lost him the respect of his family and of the woman he loves, but he must do what he thinks is right. Hugh Carey is a man almost betrayed by those he thought were friends and neighbors and must find his way back to the world. And there is a nice secondary romance as well.

While Star Keeper is part of a series, it stands very nicely on its own. I know, because I haven’t read the previous books. But I am going to pluck Starfinder off of my shelf at the first opportunity. Potter skillfully included enough backstory to make me want to read the previous book without giving everything away.

I have always wondered why the American Revolution doesn’t figure in more romances. It’s an exciting and colorful time and Potter brings it well and truly to life. Star Keeper kept me entertained and I think you will have the same response.

--Jean Mason

Note: Potter does very well with the historical background in Star Keeper. However, I really wish she hadn't used the term "Brits" when referring to the you-know-whos. This usage is really very contemporary and I've never seen it used by 18th century sources. A small matter, but it did jar a bit.


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